Evil Hamlet: This Hamlet isn't as evil as he is dull


Through April 25. $20; 412-3989 or
Stage Werx Theatre, 533 Sutter (at Powell), S.F.

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The title suggests that adapter Jim Strope has made some radical shift in William Shakespeare's masterpiece, yet the changes he added—editing down the text and setting it in a drug-and-drink–infested 1960s — do not an intriguing new adaptation make. This shortened version of the Hamlet we all know goes neither far enough in challenging the work, nor deep enough into the heart of the characters to bring something fresh or exciting out of the play. There are some nice choices that are different from most versions, such as an Ophelia and Gertrude who give as good as they get and have fabulous outfits to boot. But the choice to have Hamlet come across as if he regularly gets into weekend brawls is at odds with a character so trapped in inaction. What's more, each actor has chosen one note to cling to throughout the play — Hamlet's rage, Ophelia's impatience, Gertrude's indifference —so there is not enough happening onstage to sustain the two-and-a-half-hour show. There is much rich text to mine in Hamlet, but this attempt only tickles the surface of the deeper story it holds.

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